After ranking the prospects in the offseason, it's time to check on their progress making the transition from Asatte Ultra Strike!!! to Ashita Mega Strike!!!
- SS Alcides Escobar (22), AAA - Escobar started slowly but appears to be picking up steam; however, with a .379/.406/.500 line against lefties and just a .244/.299/.331 line against righties, there's still a lot of cause for concern. He also initially struggled with RHP last year before rebounding to post a .314/.341/.419 line against them, so perhaps he just needs an adjustment period at each level. Outside of the batter's box, Escobar has been running a lot, racking up 21 steals and only being caught 5 times. In the wake of Rickie Weeks' injury, he's also begun playing second base about 2/3 of the time, though Doug Melvin claims he's only an emergency option for the big club. We'll see about that, but he could definitely use some more seasoning with the bat.
- 3B Mat Gamel (23), MLB - You've seen what he can do. Gamel hit .336/.428/.647 at AAA before getting the call and appears to have settled more or less into the starting third base job. His defense there will dictate his future. Gamel's shown increased selectivity at the plate this year, which is a great sign.
- RSP Jeremy Jeffress (21), A+ - Ah, our other J.J. Jeffress' control gremlins took over in his first extended trial at AA as he walked 33 in 27.1 innings, though he did strike out 34. Demoted to Brevard County, where he spent most of last year, Jeffress continued to struggle in his first appearance. It won't just be a quick tuneup and then back to AA for Jeffress; he'll be down there for awhile, as his control has regressed from poor to unworkable. Jeffress reportedly began throwing a two-seamer more frequently this year, leading to a large jump in his ground ball rate, though whether the new pitch has affected his command, I can't say. Despite all his travails, Jeffress is still just 21 and still has monster stuff, so don't get too frustrated. He's still the best pitching prospect in the system.
MLE: 31 IP, 8.68 FIP, 29/56 K/BB, 32 H, 4 HR, 58.2 GB%
- C Angel Salome (23), AAA - Salome got off to a brutal start, hitting .191/.298/.234 in April, but has rebounded so far in May with a .291/.316/.436 line. It's easy to speculate that the back problems that hindered him in spring training lingered and affected his hitting early on, and recently he's also been dealing with a hand injury; once he's fully healthy, he'll most likely continue to hit like he always has. Like Gamel, Salome's defense was always the thing holding him back, and while I haven't heard any first-hand reports, his numbers have improved: only three passed balls and a 38% CS%, up from 26% last year.
- 2B Brett Lawrie (19), A - Nobody seems sure where he'll end up playing, other than not at catcher, but ignore the reports of his defense at second base being laughably bad. If I had to guess, those still date from spring training, when Lawrie was just picking up the position; from all accounts, both team-affiliated and otherwise, he's been a quick learner, showing good range and a strong arm. If he's going to move anywhere, it might be to third base to take advantage of his strong arm, but it won't be because he's a disaster at second. As for the bat, it will play pretty much anywhere the Brewers choose to deploy Lawrie. He's hitting .277/.345/.493, a great start for a teenager getting his first taste of pro ball in the frigid Midwest League.
Follow the jump for the rest of the list.
- C Jonathan Lucroy (23), AA - Hot on Salome's heels entering the year as the potential Catcher of the Future, Lucroy has also struggled in '09. He hit .288/.368/.379 in April, but has cratered in May with a pitiful .185/.329/.262 line. Still, he's walked more than he's struck out (24/17), and Jeff's luck adjustment indicates that Lucroy is getting jobbed on balls in play and corrects his overall line from .237/.348/.321 to .291/.393/.382. The lack of power is still worrisome, but Lucroy wasn't considered the second-best hitting catcher in the 2007 draft (behind Matt Wieters) for nothing; his bat will come around. However, his defense, questionable when drafted but a surprisingly strong point last year, has slipped, at least going off the numbers: seven passed balls already and a CS% that has fallen from 45% to 29%.
- CF Lorenzo Cain (23), AA - Cain gets an incomplete, having only played in four games this year. He missed the beginning of the season due to a lingering hamstring injury and then tore the PCL in his knee diving for a ball in the outfield immediately upon returning; thankfully, the injury did not require surgery and he should be back on the field sometime next month. Cain remains a toolshed, but hopes of him taking over for Mike Cameron next year were probably dashed by all the time he's missed, and the earliest we can realistically hope to see him roaming center field for the Brewers is 2011.
- 3B Taylor Green (22), AA - Like Cain, Green missed the beginning of the year, having had surgery on his wrist in January. After a short week-long rehab in Wisconsin to get him back to game speed, Green took his place in the Huntsville lineup, where he's gotten eight games under his belt, too few to really form an impression yet. If he hits as expected and Gamel fields as feared, Green could end up as the Brewers' third baseman sometime next year. He won't be a star, either offensively or defensively, but he's shown a knack so far in his career for getting the job done.
- RSP Jake Odorizzi (19), R - Odorizzi hasn't seen the field since we ranked the prospects, as the Brewers are being conservative with their premium prep arms. He's working out in extended spring training in Arizona, and we'll see him when the Pioneer League begins play in late June.
- LF Cole Gillespie (25), AAA - Gillespie began the year DHing for Brevard County as the result of an elbow injury that prevented him from playing the field, but he's been at Nashville for a little over a month now. Likely limited to left field because of shoulder surgery in college that gimped his arm, Gillespie won't ever hit for the power expected out of a corner outfielder but tries to make for it with a patient plate approach. Though he's hitting just .221/.353/.337 so far this year, he's a nice guy to have around in case of injury, and he could be a fine fourth outfielder for the Brewers for awhile.
- 2B Cutter Dykstra (20), R - Perhaps the most disappointing prospect on the list, Dykstra opened the year leading off and playing center field for the Timber Rattlers, but was displaced in both areas by Erik Miller after Dykstra hit just .212/.310/.303 and displayed some rather creative routes in the outfield. Also reportedly struggling with the blowback from his father Lenny's
personal life falling apart, he was ultimately demoted to Helena and shifted to second base, his more natural position. Dykstra hit well at Helena last year, so hopefully he'll be back up to Wisconsin (with a concomitant promotion for Brett Lawrie) before the year is out.
- RF Caleb Gindl (20), A+ - Finally, a prospect that's hitting well! Despite concerns about his height and ultimate ceiling, Gindl continues to get it done, hitting .296/.375/.444 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. After striking out a ton last year, his BB/K ratio has improved, and he's plus defender with a strong arm in right field. He'd be in the top ten if we redid the rankings today.
- RRP Omar Aguilar (24), AA - Aguilar was returned to AA to improve his command, but he's gone backwards in that regard, and has been more hittable. He still throws really hard, but he doesn't have much to back it up with. Hopes that he can help the big league bullpen soon are fading.
MLE: 13 IP, 4.83 FIP, 12/15 K/BB, 15 H, 0 HR, 36.6 GB%
- 1B/OF Brad Nelson (26), AAA (Seattle) - 0-21
- RSP Tim Dillard (25), AAA - Dillard continues to pitch in the starting rotation at Nashville, though the Brewers have admitted they view him as a reliever. His stuff is too mediocre to succeed as a starter, but his velocity was way up coming out of the pen last year; with his nice sinker, he could be a cut-rate Todd Coffey, or at the very least, he could take Jorge Julio's place and be a true long man.
MLE: 52.1 IP, 4.44 FIP, 18/25 K/BB, 52 H, 1 HR, 56.0 GB%
- LSP Zach Braddock (21), A+ - Nobody has more helium this year than Braddock. He missed the start of the season after having his ulnar nerve transposed, but has come on like gangbusters, striking out 22 while walking only 2 in 12 innings for the Manatees. The walks are the most encouraging sign, since it allows us to somewhat write off his control problems last year as being related to the irritated nerve. Being eased back and having only thrown 71.1 innings last year, Braddock yet to go more than two innings in a game, but long-term, he's the best pitching prospect in the organization after Jeffress.
- SS Brent Brewer (21), A+ - Hopes were high for the ultra-toolsy Brewer after he showed marginal improvement toward the end of last year, but he's been terribad: .203/.259/.273. Other raw, football-type guys like Daryl Jones provide a modicum of hope for Brewer, but the light switch better come on fast.
- Second-round pick Cody Adams has been very disappointing for a college starter in A-ball. He reportedly worked in the low 90s, touching 96, while at SIU, but he's barely touched 90 this season for the Timber Rattlers and has allowed a bunch of hits and walks.
- Evan Anundsen threw a no-hitter for Brevard County earlier this year and has seen his peripherals take a strong step forward from last year. A groundball specialist, he only throws in the mid-80s, but it's working so far.
- The Brewers' 9th-round pick last year, Michael Bowman has continued to build on his encouraging debut. As a college pitcher, a promotion to Brevard County at some point this year seems in order.
- My man, Chris Dennis, was mysteriously left off the T-Rats' roster to begin the year. I don't know if he was injured or what, but he's made up for lost time, hitting .415/.468/.829 in the 12 games he's been there, including homering twice off Reds prospect J.C. Sulbaran last night. Lefty sluggers are a prized commodity, so keep your eye on Dennis.
- Towering first-round lefty Evan Frederickson has regained some of his velocity from last year, though he's not the 97 mph fireballer he was reported to be--yet, anyway. No doubt he has the capability, but, as with many tall pitchers, his mechanics are wildly inconsistent, which also affects his command, as his 28 walks in 29.1 innings attest.
- Since he's older, I was hoping that big Brock Kjeldgaard would get off to a strong start and earn a quick promotion, but he hasn't. Jeff's numbers suggest he's getting a little unlucky, and his power and patience are still intact (.237/.337/.442), but he's striking out a ton (52 in 156 ABs).
- An outfielder in the Caleb Gindl mode (short and left-handed), Erik Komatsu Komalished the Pioneer League last year but has only played in one game this year, dealing with a concussion and wrist injury.
- Wily Peralta is for real, posting a 40/10 K/BB in 36 innings for Wisconsin. He's got good control for his age, but he's not some pitchability guy dominating raw fastball hitters; he has legitimate stuff, a mid-90s fastball and good slider. After Alcides Escobar, Peralta is the best international prospect in the system.
- Big righty Cody Scarpetta has also opened eyes at Wisconsin with his stuff (42 Ks in 32.2 innings), though his control lags behind Peralta's. It will be fun to watch those two climb the ladder together over the next couple years.
- Goofy-looking Logan Schafer might be the outfield version of Escobar: a raw but gifted pure hitter with excellent defense at a premium position. The Brewers' third-round pick last year, Schafer has a .310/.338/.451 line at Brevard County. If he can learn a little plate discipline, he'll become a very interesting prospect.